Teaching Drama

Using Statistics as Scene Starters

Using Statistics as Scene Starters
Written by Kerry Hishon

Looking for a new idea for some scene starters? Why not try using statistics? Using statistics offers a whole host of cross-curricular connections with drama class. Statistics are used in math, history, geography, political studies, sociology, and more. It gives students the chance to think differently about how scenes can be developed, and shows that ideas can come from just about anywhere.

Here are two ways you can use statistics as scene starters: Silly Statistics and Serious Statistics.

Silly Statistics – An Improv Game

Use the Silly Statistics suggestions below as scene starters, or have students brainstorm their own ridiculous statistics. Students will use a statistic selected for them to improvise a debate.

  • Select two students to perform. One student will take the “pro” or agreeing side, while the other will take the “con” or disagreeing side.
  • Students will take on the persona of a knowledgeable, pompous debater, whether they are on the “pro” side or the “con” side. It doesn’t matter if they actually know anything about the topic or statistic – their job is to make it seem like they do.
  • Give the pair a silly statistic to argue. It doesn’t have to be realistic; in fact, it’s usually funnier if it isn’t. For example: “According to a recent study, only 57% of brown cows give chocolate milk.”
  • Flip a coin to decide which student will go first.
  • Both students will make an opening statement, introducing their side of the debate on the statistic presented. Going with the example above, the “con” side may say, “I cannot in good faith believe that only 57% of brown cows give chocolate milk. According to my research, this number should be much higher.” The “pro” side might then say, “Of course 57% of brown cows give chocolate milk; in fact, studies show that the darker shade of brown the cow is, the more chocolatey the milk.”
  • After each student gives their opening statement, they have one minute to improvise their debate. Students don’t have to use the full minute but they will be cut off after the minute is up.
Serious Statistics – A PSA Project

Statistics can be a great way for students to create a PSA (public service announcement) that can be performed in various ways. This exercise could be used as a cross-cultural or cross-curricular project if you wished.

Have students select a topic that is important or interesting to them that they could search on their smartphones or classroom computer to find a statistic about. Here are some ideas to get them started:

  • Literacy
  • Gender issues
  • LGBTQ+ issues
  • Racism
  • Youth and politics
  • Issues in other countries
  • Environment/global warming
  • Screen time vs. physical activity
  • Local community concerns

From there, students find a statistic on their topic and use it as a jumping-off point for a playwriting exercise They will write a monologue or scene that brings attention to or dramatizes the issue in some way. For example, if a student is interested in literacy, they might use this statistic: “According to First Book Canada, a quarter of Canadian households don’t own a single book.” (Source: https://globalnews.ca/news/3748748/rising-concerns-over-literacy-rates-in-canada/)  They might decide to write a monologue about a child who doesn’t own a book, or a scene demonstrating how not owning books can affect a student at school.

Your students can take this further and either perform the monologues or scenes as a live performance for their classmates, or create a video that can then be screened for the rest of the class. Students may wish to include different styles of performance within their scenes, such as movement/dance, mime, tableau, or poetry/verse/song. 

Click here for a “Silly Statistics” topic list and exit slip, and a “Serious Statistics” reflection.

Kerry Hishon is a director, actor, writer and stage combatant from London, Ontario, Canada. She blogs at www.kerryhishon.com.

Want to find out more about our newest plays, resources and giveaways?
Get on our list!

About the author

Kerry Hishon

Kerry Hishon is a director, actor, writer and stage combatant from London, Ontario, Canada. View her blog at www.kerryhishon.com.